For the love of wood

No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.
Oscar Wilde

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(fresh strawberries on a walnut trivet / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a walnut trivet topped with a couple of fried squash / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I first started this little blog of mine, or as my husband lovingly (cough cough) references as that “blob”, I was truly wet behind the ears not having a clue as to what I was doing.
I’d never “blogged” before nor was I any sort of computer guru, “thecie” or wizened journalist.
I was just a newly retired teacher who still had some “teach” left in me.

I started posting some pictures I’d taken, some words I’d written, some recipes I’d cooked and little by little I had some folks stopping in for a “visit”— eventually some of the visitors decided they liked what they saw, or read, or both, and wanted to hang around a while. . .

One of those early visitors happened to be a man named Michael.
Michael, who is also retired, lives in the neighboring state of South Carolina. Michael loves to cook, garden and enjoys living on “the mountain” as he lovingly refers to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It seems that Michael has channeled those retired energies into his wood shop—as in he makes things.
All sorts of beautiful wooden things.

As a former art teacher, I greatly appreciate the gift of talent when I see it.
Michael has the gift—the gift of “eye” and talent in that he can see in a piece of lumber something beautiful.

His creations are not sculptures or decorative pieces of art but rather functional and utilitarian natural pieces of wonder.

Perusing his blog, where he shares his talent, I was amazed by what I saw. And lucky for me, for us, he sells these pieces of functional beauty.

https://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

A couple of Christmases back, I wrote a post about Michael’s work–espousing the difference between what makes art art verses the functionality of utilitarian objects—as well as how we may have the rare opportunity of finding both in one object.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/functional-or-decorative-or-both/

Over the past couple of years, I have been blessed to call Michael my friend.
I am also fortunate in that I have several of Michael’s cutting boards gracing my kitchen, a beautiful hand turned step stool, an ice-cream paddle and a handful of hand cut honey wands—I have given Michael’s pieces as both Christmas and wedding gifts.

There is just something very special about the tactile quality, coupled by the visual beauty, of a piece of wood that through both the vision and talent of a human being can take on a life of its own.
Michael is that gifted.

I want to share a few shots of an absolutely beautiful piece of burl wood that Michael has cut, sanded, finished and crafted into a cutting board like no other. Sadly a computer image cannot do justice to the tactile relationship we have with wood. To feel its weight, the smooth sanded core coupled by the rough bark exterior. . .to see the rich warm colors brought out by the lightly oiled surface is certainly best experienced in person. . . however these few pictures will simply have to do—not unless you too decide to wander on over to Michael’s blog where you might want to just try this all out first hand with your own board, birdhouse, honey wand, ice cream paddle or chopping block. . .

Thank you Michael!

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(16 x 10 at widest burl cutting board / Julie Cook / 2015)

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Along with the cutting board, I received yesterday two walnut trivets / coasters which will match my soon to be table chargers—of which I can’t wait for them to arrive as they will accent my kitchen so beautifully

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Functional or Decorative or both. . .

It is the mission of art to remind man from time to time that he is human, and the time is ripe, just now, today, for such a reminder.
Ben Shahn

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(one of Michael’s beautiful wooden cheese/ cutting boards with a couple of my kumquats)

When I was in the classroom, early during each term I always had the same discussion with my kids by posing this question. . . “what makes art Art? What is it that constitutes “art” as being what we perceive and define Art to actually be? Was it merely something pretty to look at, something aesthetically pleasing, something worth a lot of money, etc? Which would eventually lead to the discussion of decorative verses functional—eye pleasing verses utilitarian.

The kids and I would then examine the Arts and Crafts Movement sorting out the relationship the Crafts industry has with the Art world and of the role “functional art” plays in the bigger picture known as the World of Art. And just so you know, in this retired art teacher’s humble opinion–it has everything to do with “Art”

So imagine my joy upon discovering that a fellow blogger friend, who I met not long ago, is a woodworker—meaning he creates beauty from pieces of wood—and his beautiful pieces are of a high functional practicality. His name is Michael Laico of Michael’s Woodcrafts
http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

I have typically been more of a painter of sorts throughout my life as painting, drawing, even printmaking, have been more along the lines of my strengths. I have always admired and envied those who are the 3D artists among us—those who sculpt and form material such as clay, tubes and sheets of metals, as well as scrapes and pieces of wood, into not only visual but tactile treasures. Michael is of the aforementioned category.

I love finding such treasures, especially in time for the holidays as giving gifts, those which are made by hand, possess both beauty and functionality—which in turn are the best gifts to give as well as to receive. They are both personal and useful, which makes them some of the more treasured gifts as they may be passed down from one generation to the next and in turn develop into family heirlooms.

Michael has a great blog where he not only showcases his woodworking talents but his aptitude for photography as well as his strengths in the kitchen as he offers a wealth of tasty recipes. But it is his gift with a lathe that sparks my eye.

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From cutting boards, to cheese boards, to rolling pins, to ice-cream scoops to even birdhouses, Michael offers a wonderful selection of pieces each individually crafted into not only functional pieces of rich beautiful wood but into pieces that are truly aesthetically and tactilely pleasing.

Of course I had to order a few items as Christmas gifts, but let’s keep that as our little secret shall we as I don’t want anyone finding that out too early ..

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So as I focus this week on the things of which I am most thankful for, I add Michael and his talents, as well as his desire to share those talents with someone such as myself, to my list of gratitude..as well as for the other very dear folks I have met and now consider to be wonderful fiends via this world of blogging.
Grace and peace to you all. . .